Trade Regionalisation and Openness in Africa

Background paper to the ERD2009


Lelio Iapadre – University of L’Aquila, and Johns Hopkins University, Bologna Center, Italy; UNU-CRIS, Bruges, Belgium
Francesca Luchetti – Fondazione Manlio Masi, Rome, Italy


Paper prepared for the Workshop on “Transforming Political Structures: Security, Institutions, and Regional Integration Mechanisms”, organised by the European Report of Development in Florence, Italy, 16-17 April 2009.


The intensity of trade among countries belonging to the same region depends not only on the existence and effectiveness of a regional integration agreement, but also on other factors, which include the overall trade policy orientation and the relative level of geographic and economic barriers affecting intra- and extra-regional trade.
After presenting a set of indicators aimed at measuring correctly the intensity of bilateral trade preferences, this paper shows that most African countries tend to trade more intensely with partners belonging to the same region than with the rest of the world.
However, this is not so much the result of the weak regional integration agreements that are in force in Africa, as a consequence of the manifold barriers limiting the degree of international openness of African countries. Under this perspective, a relatively high level of intra-regional trade, far from revealing the success of preferential integration policies, confirms that Africa’s participation in the process of globalisation is still very limited.

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